The National Ignition Facility out at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is the size of a football stadium and equipped with the largest laser in the world. With said massive laser nearing completion – it’ll be done by 2009 – and the facility scheduled to begin testing in 2010, the folks running the show have set an ambitious timetable of realizing fusion power by 2011.
It sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is, but it centers around a concept called Laser Inertial Confinement Fusion-Fission Energy (or LIFE), which produces carbon-free electricity using a laser like the one installed at the NIF. According to an LLNL release, LIFE could “generate gigawatts of power 24 hours a day for as long as 50 years without refueling while avoiding carbon dioxide emissions.”
Only time will tell if we’re finally able to take advantage of fusion, but I’m looking forward to slapping my forehead and shouting “Great Scott!” when it does.